Share your love of nature with your love, in nature

A pair of cedar waxwings (Photo by Brendan Toews)

A pair of cedar waxwings (Photo by Brendan Toews)

February 13, 2015 | by Wendy Ho

Behold! The year’s (supposedly) most romantic day is coming up! Whether you see it as a cash grab for makers of V-Day buys or a necessary observance, it’s easy to get swept up in the fuss. But of all the roses, chocolates and candle light dinners, there is nothing that makes me feel as warm and fuzzy as spending time with my other half and being my spontaneous, carefree self in nature.

If you’re looking to incorporate a green flare to the celebrations, here are three non-clichéd ways to spend your Valentine’s Day:

Downy woodpecker (Photo by Bill Hubick)

Downy woodpecker (Photo by Bill Hubick)

For the love of birds

If you prefer counting real birds over dining next to doe-eyed lovebirds, there is an international bird count just in time for Valentine’s Day weekend. The 18th annual Great Backyard Bird Count is a joint project by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society in partnership with Bird Studies Canada.

From February 13 to 16, count the birds you spot for at least 15 minutes a day on one or more days and enter your sightings at The collective data helps scientists create snapshots of bird population trends worldwide. Last year, a total of 4,296 species were sighted with a total of 17,748,756 individual birds counted worldwide!

Spread the love to your feathery friends by making a pinecone bird feeder at home to hang while on your nature walks!

Snowshoe (Photo by katpatuka, Wikimedia Commons)

Snowshoe (Photo by katpatuka, Wikimedia Commons)

Escape to a nature preserve

Sometimes, being house-bound for too long can make me stir-crazy, creating conflict out of the littlest things — like toilet seats left up, and dirty dishes in the sink. A recent study suggests that taking walks in nature can make you happier!

Whether you delight in the cover of ancient woods or the embrace of open prairies, there are many natural havens to visit with fun for all ages and activity levels, often surprisingly not far from urban centres. For me (a city dweller in Toronto), Rouge Park and Tommy Thompson Park do the trick. Be it a day trip or a brisk walk, a return to nature helps you unwind from a buildup of stress.

Many parks offer equipment rental and guided tours for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing this time of year. Some itineraries may even involve a nose-to-beak encounter with the sociable chickadee.

Not sure where to go? The Nature Conservancy of Canada offers many publicly accessible reserves to satisfy your winter wanderlust. Be sure to pack a thermos of hot cocoa to share!

Seed bomb (Graphic by Iris Wong, ZGM Collaborative Marketing)

Seed bomb (Graphic by Iris Wong, ZGM Collaborative Marketing)

A winter-spring affair

For the stay-at-home couple, how about getting your hands dirty in a two-part bombshell affair: seed bomb making, that is. A seed bomb is essentially a nugget of soil and native seed mix, strategically tossed to re-wild parts of the city. Once thrown, the bombs help encourage the spread of native species. With cheap and easy-to-find ingredients, you can easily make a batch in winter and bomb away come spring.

To make your own Valentine’s Day-inspired seed bomb, simply form the balls with a heart-shaped ice cube tray or cookie cutter, et voilà: you have eco-Valentine’s Day gifts that everyone will love. The best part: watching the seeds of your labour bloom in the unlikeliest of places and help bring back wildlife that relies on native species like from bees to birds!

Tips on how to be nature’s Valentine

When spending time in nature, remember the age-old adage: leave only footprints and take only memories (or pictures). Capture nature’s sweet scenery only through the lens of your camera and consider making an e-card to share — surely a standout from the gourmet dinner selfies that flood my Facebook and Instagram feeds! If you’re feeling particularly romantic while on your romantic stroll through nature, remember to keep those heart sketches in your notebook; a tree will thank you for one less wound and scar.

Will you be my green Valentine this year?

Wendy Ho (Photo by NCC)

About the Author

Wendy Ho is Nature Conservancy of Canada's editorial coordinator.

Read more about Wendy Ho.

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